If one wanted to truly slow walk through GNP with “minimal” miles, it can be done. In fact, if we were smarter, and had money to burn, we could have packed for two days and resupplied in Many Glacier (Swiftwater Store) for the three additional days to Two Medicine Campground, and the camp store. We did somewhat of a hybrid…not by design though.
We had a choice for our first evening’s campsite. 6.1 miles to Gable Creek, or 11.1 to the head of Elizabeth Lake. Because we were capable of doing the 11.1 miles, Elizabeth Lake (ELH) was our first night’s campsite.
The following morning we hefted our packs and retraced our steps (1.6 miles) from the “head” of Elizabeth Lake to her “foot”, and back into the CDT (alt.) southbound, giving us our first 3.2 “bonus miles”.
This, our second day’s destination was to the backpacker sites at the Many Glacier campground (59/71), 11.7 miles away, via the Ptarmigan tunnel at 7,200 ft. The tunnel was originally built in 1930 by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) for horse travel and tours. The CDT route from Chief Mountain actually goes through Red Gap pass, which is 6 miles longer. However, from the very beginning, we wanted to take the tunnel…cause well, it’s a tunnel that took jackhammers and dynamite to drill through 240 feet of solid rock in a high mountain, and we were traveling with a Hobbit. The Red Gap Pass route had been closed due to a grizzly bear encounter along that route. A hiker unknowingly came across a bear who was guarding a recent animal kill near the trail. The bear, defending it’s kill, charged the hiker. The hiker then deployed the entirety of his bear spray and ran like hell into two CDT hikers (Meta & Baggins), who then packed up and headed swiftly down to Many Glacier to report the incident…and of course get as far away from the bear as possible. Thus, we got to take the tunnel, but not until after a hearty climb.
The views upon approach were stunning, even with a thin haze muting the brilliant blue skies, from the fires in Oregon and nearby Canada
Once through the tunnel (240 feet), another magnificent view opened, and throngs of day hikers appeared like ants making their way up to the tunnel’s unique perspective.
Anxious to get to camp…and beer, we hustled our way down the busy and definitely crowded trail, but not without a stop at a stream to soak our feet. We couldn’t help but notice that we were the focus of many cameras whilst doing so.
Back upon the trail, we were interrupted by a deer hastily making its way across our path. Further down the trail our path was once again obstructed by a gaggle of (some anxious and some intrigued) people marveling at a very large bleached blonde sow grizzly and her two cubs feeding on vegetation some 40 feet above the trail. The fact that she was slowly making her way down to the trail disturbed only a few (which included us).
I found it more fun to watch the people as opposed to the bears. Not wanting to witness or capture any carnage, we weaved our way through the crowd and continued to the Many Glacier campground…and store.
Once we set up our tents, it was time to peruse the store for libations. Whilst imbibing on the store’s benches, an elderly woman joined our conversation. Turns out that he son swam for a coach I knew from Gilroy. Small world.